Oregon

Jury Out On Sexual Abuse Case

Daily Astorian | Feb. 20, 2013 11:56 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 21, 2013 7:56 a.m.

Contributed By:

TED SHORACK

After hearing five days of testimony, jurors began deliberating the case of Thomas Michael Kelly on Tuesday.

Kelly is accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old family member and is charged with 12 counts of first-degree sodomy and 12 counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

A verdict would end a nearly seven-year ordeal. Kelly, 62, was initially convicted in 2008 and sentenced to more than 30 years in prison. An Oregon Supreme Court decision in 2010 allowed him to challenge his conviction.

The victim first reported the alleged abuse in May 2006 to her father’s fiancée. A Clatsop County Sheriff deputy taped an initial interview with the victim and the fiancée. She was later interviewed at Lighthouse for Kids, a child abuse assessment center in Astoria.

A search warrant was served at Kelly’s home in Knappa in 2006 and sheriff’s deputies seized pornographic tapes and seat cushions as evidence, described by the victim during interviews.

The seat cushions were found to have semen, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown in opening statements, and the Oregon State Police’s forensic laboratory found DNA matching Kelly’s.

The evidence was retested in May 2012 by the OSP crime lab and confirmed to belong to the defendant. A female contributor was found as well but inconclusively linked to the victim. There was no way to determine a time frame for when the DNA appeared on the cushions.

From an early age, the victim was diagnosed with mental difficulties, including Asperger’s syndrome, Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.

Physicians at Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare prescribed her medication to treat the disabilities.

Kelly’s defense attorney, Raymond Tindell, brought forward psychiatrists who prescribed medication for the victim before the alleged sex abuse was reported. Their reports indicated that there was no indication of sexual abuse.

However, Brown cross-examined the witnesses and asked questions about the length of time visited with the victim and whether she would be willing to come forward and report abuse.

Jurors were presented with the testimony of psychiatrists throughout the trial. Based on the expert opinion, jurors will have to determine whether the victim withheld reporting because she was fearful or because the alleged abuse wasn’t taking place.

When the deputy sheriff first interviewed the victim, she said that the defendant had touched her inappropriately. In the Lighthouse interview, she went into further detail and said that penetration and other sexual acts had taken place. She also described a specific scene in one of the pornographic films.

Tindell attributed the change to lying and embellishment.

“You didn’t talk about anything other than touching,” said Tindell about the first interview.

The victim said it was hard to say everything that happened at first when she took the stand on Wednesday last week.

Brown asked, “Did you tell the truth at the Lighthouse?” and “Are you telling the truth right now?”

The victim said yes to both.

“I wish people didn’t think I was lying about it,” she said. “Sometimes I wish everything could go back to the way it was.”

Tindell brought witnesses who testified to the victim’s difficult behavior and tendency to lie. Prior to reporting the alleged abuse of her grandfather, she said that her father had physically abused her and her brothers had held her down to perform sexual acts. She later recanted those allegations.

“I was always that kid that spoke before thinking,” she said. “I mostly lied when I thought I’d get into trouble for something.”

Kelly opted out of testifying after being reminded by Circuit Court Judge Cindee Matyas that he had a right to.

“The state has the burden of proof and I have the right not to speak,” he said.

Jurors continued their deliberation this morning.

This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.

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